Browse the information below for demographic information on Cuba, including population,
religion, nationality and more. If you do not find the Cuba information you need on the
people page, check out our complete listing on the Cuba Country Page.
Population: 11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.
Ethnic groups: 51% mulatto, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese (according to Cuban census data).
Language: Spanish. Literacy--95%.
Work force (4.5 million): Government and services--30%; industry--22%; agriculture--20%; commerce--11%; construction--11%; transportation and communications--6%.
Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations are growing rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba. Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.
While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The Catholic church is the largest independent institution in Cuba today but continues to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on it by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Department of Religious Affairs.
The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2003 openly criticized the government's strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media.
Other Cuban religious groups--including evangelical Christians, whose numbers are growing rapidly--also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba's small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has pockets of faithful in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island. See also the Department's report on international religious freedom for further information.